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The Secret Special Branch Ledgers

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  • The Secret Special Branch Ledgers

    Hi All,

    By way of introduction—

    "Since Bernard Porter’s book "The Origins of the Vigilant State" was published in 1987 the U.K.’s ‘Open Government Initiative’ has led to the opening of some secret files relevant to the early history of the Special Branch – most notably the memoir of Superintendent William Melville.

    "However, more than a century after the height of the anarchist scare, a substantial amount of documentation concerning it is still held by the Special Branch and classified as secret. A serving officer in today’s Special Branch, Lindsay Clutterbuck, has recently completed a Ph.D. thesis based in part on research in documents retained by the Branch and accessible to him only because of his status . . . This information would seem to contradict what police officials told Porter about the Branch’s records: ‘Scotland Yard . . . claims that all its Special Branch files were pulped to furnish recycled paper during the last war’ (The Origins of the Vigilant State, p. xi)."

    E. Thomas Wood [July 2002]

    What follows is covered by Section 21 paragraph 53 in a 29-page Freedom of Information Act 2000 [Section 50] Decision Notice dated 20th August 2008. It reads in part—

    "To the limited extent that information from the Ledgers and the Register is cited in the [Clutterbuck] thesis and, where it is clear that they are from that source, the Commissioner is satisfied that that material is reasonably accessible to the complainant by other means. Therefore in relation to that material the exemption was appropriately claimed."

    The new information discovered in 2000/1 by Lindsay Clutterbuck, then a serving Special Branch officer, is described thus:-

    "Three 'Special Account' books, each measuring 160mm by 200mm, and printed into five columns per page. They detail, amongst other items, what appears to be the cash amounts paid out to individual informants. In all, approximately six thousand individual entries span a total of the twenty four years from 1888 to 1912.

    "Book One is headed 'Special Account' and runs from February 1st 1888 to December 5th 1894.

    "Book Two, with no heading, commences on December 12th 1894 and finishes on December 25th, 1901.

    "Book Three, again with no heading, covers the years from January 1st 1902 to March 27th 1912.

    "Whilst they do not provide any operational information directly appertaining to the policing of extreme Irish nationalism during the period of 1881-1885 when Irish activities were at a peak, they do give a unique insight into the workings of the MPSB [Metropolitan Police Special Branch] from shortly after its formal inception in February, 1887 (Metropolitan Police Orders, February 3rd, 1887) until well beyond the turn of the century. It is likely that there had been substantial change in the years leading up to the period covered by the first volume. They also show that, whatever the public protestations of senior police officers and politicians concerning their apparent distaste at the use of "spies", such individuals were actively recruited by the police who then paid them with the money provided for that purpose by the government.

    "This published material ranges from the earliest examples in the 1798 rebellion, through to the Fenians of the 1860s and beyond into the 1880s. It identifies many people who acted as informants on behalf of the British government.

    "As well as the Account Books, a further, larger book has come to light. It measures 20cm by 33cm and is headed 'Special Branch Records of Service- 27.11.86 to 2.1.1917'.

    "It seems to have performed several functions related to personnel. The volume is divided into various sections. The first of these is extracts from Metropolitan Police Orders relating to the transfers into, within and out of Special Branch. This is invaluable as trying to reconstruct today such movements by relying on the Police Orders published at the time is virtually
    impossible due to the difficulties in disentangling which CID postings actually referred to Special Branch. Another section refers to each individual officer's postings, transfers, promotion and retirement dates. The final part of the book details officers postings to coastal ports, both in Britain and abroad.

    "The last book to be discovered is a bound ledger. It is a massive tome, measuring 27cms by 38cms by 6cms and weighing 4 kilograms. The front cover is embossed with the words "Crime Department Special Branch" and the first page bears a stamp "Criminal Investigation Dept. - Chief Constables Office - SPECIAL", with the hand written date of "20.4.88" inserted into its centre.

    "It appears to serve several functions and each page is divided into four columns, each headed respectively: -

    "Name (briefly) Subject Reference to Correspondence Folio in Correspondence Register

    "At the rear of the book, two pages detail anonymous letters sent to the Branch. A further six pages contain references to extracts from the press, ranging from the radical to the establishment, both from within Great Britain and abroad. However, it is the remainder of the book that contains the most significant research material.

    "It is organised into alphabetical cuts, with each letter further divided into sub-cuts headed A, E, I, O, U. At thirty five lines a page there is a minimum of one thousand entries per letter of the alphabet, plus "Mc" and the use of the spare capacity at the back for overflow. Very few pages are not filled completely, giving a total of up to thirty thousand, one line entries.

    "A number in the "Reference to Correspondence" column, always in the format of a fraction [e.g. 3622/2], accompanies each one line entry. Another number, usually between one and four hundred e.g . 294 appears in the "Folio in Correspondence Register" column.

    "Overall, the ledger appears designed to operate on three levels:-

    "i) As a register of correspondence sent to Special Branch by the rest of the Metropolitan Police, other Police Forces, the Home Office, other government departments and members of the
    public.

    "ii) As an index to the reports submitted by its own officers.

    "iii) As a nominal and subject index of people and topics mentioned at i) and ii) above.

    "Specific dates are rarely given but by taking an archaeological approach to what entries lie before or after a dated entry, a rough estimate of the possible date of the others can sometimes be inferred."

    And what of Jack the Ripper in all of this?

    Clutterbuck states that "The Chief Constable's Register contains several intriguing references to at least support the contention that 'Special' had more that a passing interest in 'Jack the Ripper' but none to corroborate the particular suspect that they put forward."

    Clutterbuck also cites John Mallon of the Dublin Metropolitan Police, whose comments appeared in "Irish Conspiracies", a book of his reminiscences written by journalist and writer Frederick Moir Bussey, published by Everett & Co, 1910.

    Anderson's "most authoritative critic is probably Bussey (1910), who, using his association with Superintendent John Mallon of the Dublin Metropolitan Police, a man with first hand knowledge of many of the events, paints a picture of Anderson as a man who "talks a good job", irrespective of his personal involvement in it. Consequently, caution must be exercised in using Anderson as a source."

    Although we shall never get to see the details contained in these ledgers, I hope the foregoing gives some idea of the lengths to which the authorities will go to preserve the secret history of the LVP.

    Regards,

    Simon
    Never believe anything until it has been officially denied.

  • #2
    Thank you Simon!

    Hello Simon,

    A brilliant and interesting summary. Dr. Lindsey Clutterbuck's references are indeed revealing and comprehensive, as you said, indicating the amount of secrecy.

    I have been pushing for many a year about the BACKGROUND of the happenings in and around Whitechapel. Terrorism, Anarchy, Fenianism, Russian undercover agents, Ochrana,anti-Tsarism, Swiss and French counter espionage agents, The IWMEC, The Parnell stuff looming. American Irish sympathisers mixing in the undercurrent of it all, and the small matter of a few women being murdered...and all this going on with Anderson, Monro and Littlechild trying to control all the comings and goings of the police involved in every single one of these events, all at the same time.

    When I first suggested, ages ago, that the raids on the individual homes of the people of Whitechapel were nothing to do with a game of "hunt the Ripper" as we were told by the police themselves, I can well remember the derision. Perhaps this summary of yours Simon, may help people to understand that Anderson did indeed have other agendae, that his "sick leave" to Switzerland and the return via Paris, had very little to do with the fresh mountain air of a holiday, or a trip to the zoo in Paris. I am indebted to you for posting this, as in Alex Butterworths brilliant and comprehensive book, "The World that Never Was" (2010) expands upon and looks at all the aspects of the above, he also having encountered the known problems with his research in the archives.

    Thank you indeed for posting this. It is seriously important for people to understand the wider picture.

    As for Anderson, that quote from Bussey in 1910 sums the man up perfectly."...caution must be excercised in using Anderson as a source".

    Def ascertained fact indeed. A proveless, worthless comment said to lead people away from the real things going on in Whitechapel, Special Branch investigations about Jack the Ripper included.

    People say the use of the word smokescreen is not applicable... yeah, right. The series of murders were almost background stuff compared to what was going down, hence the bringing in of specialised policemen familiar with anti-Fenianism, from Ireland included.

    In my honest opinion, it is high time the focus shifted outwards.... Kosminsky? Druitt? Ostrog?... all thrown out to keep the masses quiet. And the press, or certain sections of it, were used all through the events of the Autumn of 1888. That is what counter espionage and secret undercover work is all about. Dazzle and confuse.

    Many thanks for this summary. For it is the truth. Directly said, some should sit up and take notice of the events of the LVP....for the BACKGROUND is the key.

    with best wishes

    Phil
    Last edited by Phil Carter; 06-11-2010, 09:38 PM.
    Chelsea FC. TRUE BLUE. 💙


    Justice for the 96 = achieved
    Accountability? ....

    Comment


    • #3
      Fascinating Simon-----thanks for sharing this.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Simon Wood
        Clutterbuck states that "The Chief Constable's Register contains several intriguing references to at least support the contention that 'Special' had more that a passing interest in 'Jack the Ripper' but none to corroborate the particular suspect that they put forward."
        Excellent post, Simon. We need to contact Dr. Clutterbuck to get full info on the Jack the Ripper material here. A simple paragraph like this simply will not do.

        Yours truly,

        Tom Wescott

        Comment


        • #5
          You will have a job i am told he is dead

          Comment


          • #6
            That sucks! Maybe Phil has some ideas regarding finding his files and notes. Of course, if he could get in to see this stuff, I see no reason why I couldn't, or Debs, Rob, or whoever.

            Yours truly,

            Tom Wescott

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Tom_Wescott View Post
              That sucks! Maybe Phil has some ideas regarding finding his files and notes. Of course, if he could get in to see this stuff, I see no reason why I couldn't, or Debs, Rob, or whoever.

              Yours truly,

              Tom Wescott
              I think it is time for me to throw my hat in the ring as far as these ledgers are concerned.

              I have known of the existence on these ledgers for the past 12 months I know where they are and i have viewed copies of the ledgers. The ledgers were in the past open for unrestricetd viewing by bona fide reserachers.

              Another author (non ripper) tried to gain access to them in 2008 but was refused. This author went to a freedom of information tribunal in a further attempt to gain access. That tribunal was in 2009.

              The result was that based on represenattions made by special branch officers. The ledgers could be made public but with "all" proper names being redacted. The ledgers are now awash with heavy redaction and the entries are of very little information in this state.

              Since this time I have viewed then in redacted form and in my opinion the special branch officers provided information which was misleading to the tribunal and as a result they made the decision they did.

              The main argument Special Branch put forward was that these ledgers contained names and detail of informants and it is their policy not to publicly disclose name of informants.

              Having gone through the ledgers it is clear that not all that is contained in those ledgers relates to informants.

              Through other enquireis I made and other sources of information I can say there are several references to The Whitechapel murders in the ledgers and I Have seen the relevant entries . Some of these entries were not mentioned by Clutterbuck whose thesis I am familar with.

              I must empahise these are only ledgers and not specific files. There are references to files in the ledgers but the files have long gone.

              As a result I made specific requests to The Met Police for specific information which i knew was contained in the ledgers. These request did not relate to informants. As expected the request was denied. An appeal to the Met police also was rejected.

              I therefore lodged an appeal to the Information commisisoners who have now taken up the appeal and have been in contact with The Met police. It may be the Met police wil now relent and provide me with the specific information I have requested.If not then the case could go to a full tribunal which could take several months.

              If iam succesful then the only information relased will be what I have requested I will of course be pressing to view them all in unredcated form to see if there are any other references to The Ripper which have been missed. I cannot see the ledger in their entrirety ever being made public.

              In the mean time I would ask that everyone be patient and leave me to deal with this. As an when there are any new developments I will publish them first on here.

              " I told you the truth was out there "
              Last edited by Trevor Marriott; 06-12-2010, 01:35 AM.

              Comment


              • #8
                Hi Trevor,
                Thanks for this information.Lets hope they contain some useful leads!
                Best
                Norma

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Natalie Severn View Post
                  Hi Trevor,
                  Thanks for this information.Lets hope they contain some useful leads!
                  Best
                  Norma
                  Leads more than likely earth shattering revelations I have my doubts from what i know and what i have seen so far.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    The correct way..

                    Originally posted by Natalie Severn View Post
                    Hi Trevor,
                    Thanks for this information.Lets hope they contain some useful leads!
                    Best
                    Norma
                    Hello Norma,

                    Indeed, One never knows, does one?

                    In the mean time I would ask that everyone be patient and leave me to deal with this. As an when there are any new developments I will publish them first on here.

                    " I told you the truth was out there "
                    Yes Trevor, this should be respected by us all, given you are way down the line in the chain of events, this is the correct way of doing things. We dont need to put more pressure on the Met. I wish you every luck in your quest. Well done Trevor.

                    best wishes

                    Phil
                    Chelsea FC. TRUE BLUE. 💙


                    Justice for the 96 = achieved
                    Accountability? ....

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      The elusive hot potato. We all await.

                      Actually it's likely much ado about nothing. Cynicism is always the best recourse. Simon -- is it about anything of significant interest?

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        A Hint

                        Originally posted by Scott Nelson View Post
                        The elusive hot potato. We all await.
                        Actually it's likely much ado about nothing. Cynicism is always the best recourse. Simon -- is it about anything of significant interest?
                        Do I detect a hint of cynicism resulting from a distinct lack of interest in anything that is unlikely to involve Kosminski and Polish Jews, or which may be critical of Anderson? At least this is contemporary official material Scott.
                        SPE

                        Treat me gently I'm a newbie.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Scott Nelson View Post
                          The elusive hot potato. We all await.

                          Actually it's likely much ado about nothing. Cynicism is always the best recourse. Simon -- is it about anything of significant interest?
                          I can assure you that is it very much the opposite. As Stewart pointed out the material is contemporary and will reveal new information surrounding the Whitechapel murders and Jack The Ripper.

                          I think some researchers who have relentlessly championed certain suspects are in for a reality check !

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Scott Nelson View Post
                            The elusive hot potato. We all await.

                            Actually it's likely much ado about nothing. Cynicism is always the best recourse. Simon -- is it about anything of significant interest?
                            Hello Scott,

                            As one who has been keen on and have been digging into this particular part of Ripperology for a very long time, I opine that the guarded history of the material is in itself pretty fascinating, let alone the contents. All manner of reasons for such historical material, not just Ripper related, not existing have been made over many decades. The material itself may not be a crock of gold, but it may well prove to be extremely useful and may give leads to open up the subject in completely new directions. That is surely positive for all interested in the development of the subject.

                            best wishes

                            Phil
                            Chelsea FC. TRUE BLUE. 💙


                            Justice for the 96 = achieved
                            Accountability? ....

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              HI ALL,

                              This is exactly what the case needs..new directions..possible new leads.
                              This is the sort of thing that gets me exicited again about the case.

                              Well done to all and good luck Trevor.


                              Gillingham FC..relegated again.

                              Comment

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